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Home Boys

Mar 1, 2010

Calgary brothers bring system-built homes to the inner city

by Stephanie Sparks

Imagine, leaving for work, you pass by an empty lot on your way to the office. The lot has been vacant for months but, returning home after five, you see that it now holds a three-storey fourplex.

You’ve just witnessed the assembly of a Karoleena Custom Homes system-built residence.

The Graycie, Karoleena’s multi-residential home in Marda Loop, took five months to build in a Manitoba factory but only eight hours to assemble by crane on the site. By contrast, a conventional build can take 18 to 24 months before it’s completed, says partner Kurt Goodjohn.

Calgary brothers Kris and Kurt Goodjohn established a conventional building company in 2004-05 when they started investing in the city’s real estate. At the time, Kris was playing professional hockey in Germany and Kurt was working as an engineer in the United States. The birth of Kris’s first daughter was the catalyst for the brothers returning home and reuniting the family; they named the company after her.

Initially Karoleena built conventional, on-site homes, and the brothers tried to make them energy efficient without sacrificing luxury finishes. Then they came across Dwell, an architecture magazine out of the United States. “They have a large focus on system-built and modular building,” says Kurt Goodjohn, recalling images of multimillion-dollar houses being factory built and pieced together on-site by cranes. “We looked into it a bit more and realized if you’re really going to build something energy-efficient and do something different, this is the way to do it. And nobody’s doing it in Calgary.”

Today 90% of the Karoleena homes are system-built. “We say it’s smarter, it’s faster and it’s been around forever so it’s proven,” Kurt says.

System-built homes just need to be proven to buyers, and Kurt says that Karoleena is trying to lead the way. For the Calgary Home and Garden Show in February, the company booked 5,000 square feet of booth space in the BMO Centre to display its Karo-line C home. Afterward, the show model was made available for sale.

“It’s kind of like an open house, except in a rapid pace.” He estimates 20,000 to 30,000 people walked through the house over the four days of the show.

Buyers are not the only ones the company is educating about system-built homes. Karoleena’s concept had raised red flags for the City of Calgary’s planning department. The experience has actually helped Karoleena forge strong relationships with city planners as well as trade partners who believe in Karoleena and understand the benefits. “The people that we have behind us all worked on the Graycie [in Marda Loop] and they all had some learning lessons too, but they see the benefits and the potential in what we’re doing.”

Building partnerships is difficult, but no relationship is as strong as the family one. “We’re brothers, so you can’t really break us apart. When there are difficult times, we have to make sure that we get through it. You can’t just say ‘See ya later’ to your brother.”

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